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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Newcastle’s iconic Barker and Stonehouse to be replaced by student flats

Decision day nears for £40m plans to tear down Newcastle's Barker and Stonehouse for student flats

Plans to tear down Newcastle’s empty Barker and Stonehouse store to make way for student flats could be approved next week.

The closed Barker and Stonehouse store in Leazes Park Road, Newcastle city centre. Image: NCJ Media/ Craig Connor.

The furniture showroom, near St James’ Park, was closed down in March 2023 and is now facing demolition.

Councillors are due to rule next Friday on whether proposals from student housing frim Vita Student to build flats on the Leazes Park Road site can go ahead.

The company, which also runs student housing schemes on neighbouring Strawberry Place and Westgate Road, wants to build a six-storey block containing 260 studio apartments.

Ahead of a meeting of Newcastle City Council’s planning committee next Friday, April 26, civic centre officers have recommended that that £40 million scheme is approved.

In a report to councillors, they said that the development would help bring extra footfall to the city and particularly the nearby Eldon Square shopping centre.

They concluded that the benefits of the project “clearly and convincingly justify” the harm it could cause as a result of it being larger than the existing Barker and Stonehouse building.

One objection against the plans was lodged by a neighbour, expressing worries over a loss of sunlight and privacy.

Conservation group the Northumberland and Newcastle Society also told the council that, while there are “no other obvious viable, sustainable proposals” for the site, they believed the student housing block is “too bulky and tall”.

They added: “It is evident this area of the city is building up quite a student monoculture and we would wish to see a more eclectic mix of building types to maintain a greater sense of community.”

In their planning application, the developers argued that the block would help “relieve existing demand and pressure on traditional residential accommodation” from students in popular areas like Jesmond and Sandyford.

Vita Student said the redevelopment, which would save and incorporate the Strawberry House building next door to the former showroom, would deliver “substantial economic, social and environmental benefits”.

The council planners’ report states: “The proposed development includes the demolition of an existing retail unit within the urban core of Newcastle and seeks to replace it with a non-retail use. The development of residential accommodation is considered to be a supportive use to retail that will bring additional footfall, particularly in the proposed location which is in proximity to the Eldon Square shopping centre.

“In addition, the proposal will provide an attractive, active frontage to the site which is presently vacant, and therefore the proposal for the demolition and replacement of a retail unit is considered an acceptable form of development within this part of the Newcastle city centre.”

As well as the 260 flats, the building would feature lounge and games areas, studying space, a gym, bike storage, and a cinema room.

Barker and Stonehouse closed down the city centre store, where it had been based since 1998, ahead of opening a flagship site next to the Metrocentre last year.

It also now has a shop inside the Fenwick department store in Northumberland Street.

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